Chez Fong – a night to remember (how cliched is that?)!
Chez Fong is everything BUT cliched. I don’t quite know where to start … food, the chef, the concept, the evening. Chez Fong is an evening of the most sublime food, in a quirky home, set high on the ridge in Houghton overlooking the view of the Parks suburbs north to Sandton. But best of all it’s made and served and in fact performed by Su-Yen Thornhill. Once a week only, (Wednesday nights), she prepares a 10 course meal (10 courses – I kid you not) in her home (you take your own drinks) and you meet the fabulously funny, whacky bundle of energy that is Su-Yen. This is bucket-list stuff!
How did Su-Yen get to cooking?
Several whiskies down the hatch, surrounded by a group of 8 or so almost forty-somethings celebrating a birthday, and at the end of a 10 course banquet of the most exquisite dishes, I was not at my most razor sharp! But I am tenacious and even more so with a couple of whiskies under my belt. I want to hear more about Su-Yen, whose reputation has preceded her. So I started off sticking to the standard questions – like: ‘How did you get into cooking?’ Su-Yen talks fast, she is a fabulous mimic and has the facial expressions of Shrek at his most malleable.
“It was my mother who collapsed into bed one day and announced she was dying:
‘Your fatha, you wash ow becore u know wite pepul cahn loek afta themselv [remember her mother is dying and also her father is Scottish South African] he going to mahyee one of thoze oful womin at gorf club who are hooking into him and juss like Sindahyehah you going to be in kishen – a slef to your fatha’s new wife. You betta yern to coek. [This, before all you politically correct readers shoot me down in flames, is Su Yen taking off her mutha.]”
Su-Yen, ever resourceful, goes to the kitchen [in their home in Hong Kong] and gets out the ‘Penguin Book of Cooking no 1’. (I cannot imagine Su-Yen, even at the age of 8, reading a recipe OR following instructions. She would even manage to boil water with flare and panache and in her own individual way).
I digress …. Su Yen continues:
” A few weeks later she [my mother] gets out of bed and yells at me: ‘Geh owh mye kitshen. Wot u doing here?’
‘I thought you were dying’
‘I’m not dying’ she shrieks ‘Why u curth mi?’”
So… mother is fine, her father does not remarry a golf-club prowler, they live happily ever after .. well, at least until June 2018 and, Inshallah, long after! And Su-Yen is launched on her cooking trajectory and leaves Hong Kong for boarding school in England at the age of 11.
Su-Yen is a woman of many talents
Make no mistake Su-Yen is no slouch. After leaving school in Kent (UK) at 18 she went to Edinburgh University to study medical microbiology. This leads us …well I wouldn’t say ‘leads’ is quite the word, it’s a little more diversionary than that … to the mention of tami flu (which I have never heard of). It then all becomes a bit like a post-modern narrative. Because somehow we get to Ebola being a ‘retarded’ virus because it kills the host, and so then kills itself …. it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take any sensible notes! Back to Su Yen’s talents: when she’d finished her Honours at Edinburgh, she launched into a Masters in Science Communication in London and worked at the Science Museum in London. After various forays with The New Scientist and then Nature she spent some time in New York [not Boston!] before coming to South Africa in 2010. Things are continuing in a fairly logically sequence at this point until Su-Yen suddenly says ‘I’m getting new glasses tomorrow’.
Ah! Good to know that Su Yen.
And then we have Su Yen’s reaction to her article being plagiarized at The New Scientist. The next morning I lift my head off the pillow, put it down immediately because my head is a bit sore! I open my eyes to read my notes … this takes some time to focus and all I see scrawled across the page is:
I fear things are going from bad to worse as an interviewer.
Food at Chez Fong
So maybe I’d better turn to the food and here a picture speaks a thousand words and I cannot begin to do justice to these fabulous dishes, each with its own subtle flavour, and, unlike much Asian-fusion food, each with its own completely distinctive taste. And NO preservatives. Completely delicious. I present to you – a 10 course meal.
And I can’t believe that I even had space for course 10 which was out of this world: vanilla icecream with a fabulous-sticky-gooey-but-not-too-rich-chocolatey-crunchy-textured-completely-delicious–‘thing’. Sorry no photo – eating completely took over photography!
What a meal and what an evening. And what a ‘kloppende‘ the next day. Thank you Su-Yen for the MOST amazing evening and thank you near-40-somethings for putting up with Mumsie/MIL [aka mother-in-law]. Was such a fun evening and what amazing food.
Phone Su-Yen on 074 361 9079 to book. Remember you will need to book long in advance and Chez Fong is open on Wednesday evenings only.